Vulnerability and Humor

Carol A. Hand

Lately, I have been missing lighthearted laughter. The topics I read and write about are almost all so serious, and the attempts at humor or satire, so dark and degrading. This morning I remembered one of the times when I laughed so hard tears ran from my eyes and my sides felt like they would split open. It was in the most unlikely of places – at a rural health conference held in Las Vegas. In many ways, the entire experience was surreal and somewhat ridiculous. Maybe that’s why I found the story told by a “cowboy poet” so funny at the time.

I remember thinking about the absurdity of holding a conference on rural health in Las Vegas when the agency I was working for as a consultant insisted that I attend. It was an all-expenses paid trip with pay, so how could I refuse. An Ojibwe friend would also be going, so at least I would have company, although we would be flying in from different airports.

The absurdity began when I went to find a taxi to take me from the airport to my hotel. It was almost midnight. Standing there dressed in my traveling clothes – blue jeans, jacket, and sensible walking shoes – looking like I was someone from the rez, a stretch limo driver backed up and asked if I wanted a ride. He assured me that it would be cheaper than a cab because the car was already loaded with at least five other passengers.

I agreed and climbed in as he loaded my luggage. As we neared the city, I was blown away by the lights. I had just left my cabin in the woods. Off-the grid, I only had electricity when the gas-powered generator was running. I was used to reading by light from candles or oil lamps. I wasn’t sure what to think about such a display of privilege and profligacy. By the time the limo pulled up in front of my hotel, the Mirage, I was the sole passenger. The sidewalk was filled with people who stared as I exited. I found myself amused. “Try though you might, you won’t recognize me as someone who’s famous.”


Photo: “Las Vegas (Nevada, USA), The Strip — 2012 — 18” by © Dietmar Rabich, (Wikipedia Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons

I was momentarily disoriented as I entered into the huge, brightly-lit crowded lobby before I noticed the long lines of travelers waiting in line to register. I joined at the end of one line and settled in to wait patiently for my turn as I took in the sights. I know I always pick the slowest line, so I’ve learned to adapt and chill out.

Suddenly I noticed a disturbance at the check-in desk. It was my friend, arguing with staff behind the counter. She was obviously distraught, not an uncommon situation for her. She was one of those people who always encountered difficulties – missed flights or lost luggage. Her response was always the same irate frustration. I decided to see how I might help.

The agency she was representing had apparently failed to make her hotel reservation and all the rooms were booked. I offered to share my room with her, so the situation was easily resolved. Not ideal to spend too much time with someone who is unhappy, but I was here to work anyway.

I attended the obligatory meetings, planning sessions, and workshops. But I wasn’t sure about attending the conference lunch. The featured entertainment was “The Cowboy Poet.” The irony didn’t escape me. It was challenging enough to keep balanced when I had to deal with my disgruntled friend. Still, I was hungry and the lunch was already paid for, so we decided to go. I had my doubts as I watched the tall, thin cowboy struggle toward the stage in his high-heeled pointed-toe cowboy boots and skin-tight jeans. His huge cowboy hat and the thickly-waxed handle-bar mustache curled over his cheeks didn’t put me at ease, either. But then, he shared his poetry and I was in awe. Deeply touching stories of loneliness and profound insights and stories that made me laugh so hard I almost fell out of my chair. I looked across the table, and saw my friend was in a similar state.

I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the “cowboy’s” name, but I remember one of the stories he told. Today when I found the story on YouTube, it didn’t seem as funny. It’s still mildly amusing when I think of the context – two Ojibwe women from different rural reservations in Vegas listening to a cowboy poet.

Here’s a link if you’re interested, but viewer discretion is advised. Cowboy Poetry (Scott Mackintosh “The Bra” by Bill Hirshi.)

Despite culture, what made it funny was the cowboy’s ability to laugh at himself. I think about the things that still make me laugh. They’re times when my vulnerability as a human were exposed in embarrassing ways – a loud smelly fart as I was speaking to a closed room of snooty peers in an elite Catholic women’s college, or speaking in from of an audience wearing a crocheted vest that got stuck on the knobs of the flip chart behind me and started unraveling as I walked.

So as I begin this new year, I wanted to remember the importance of laughter. Even dealing with troubling times and topics, I need to remember to keep things in perspective. Let me celebrate life with my usual style and grace, as the words of this New Year’s greeting advice.



Photo: Recycled Paper Greetings (Gary Larson, 1983, The Far Side, FarWorks, Inc.)

I send you all my best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

41 thoughts on “Vulnerability and Humor

  1. Thank you for sharing this humorous story, Carol. Laughter is certainly important, expressly for those of us so tuned in to injustice and suffering. And while I’m not big on TV programs, I do make a point to watch the Big Bang Theory whenever I can. I find it hilariously good medicine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Carol, doesn’t it feel good to laugh? I write about so much about the dark stuff you mentioned, but boy, when something makes me laugh, like your post, I feel the darkness lift–like a jolt of good nutrition–and I want MORE! So, thank you, today, dear friend, for reminding me of the healing power of humor! ❤

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  3. I’m still laughing over the cartoon! This poor alien and I come from the same gene pool!-)

    I watched Despicable Me 2 last night. And I found myself laughing so hard at points that my ribs hurt. But it felt good! Real good.

    Believe it or not, my roommate in college and I, a drummer, of course, considered quitting music and doing a comedy duo. We use to laugh so much and so hard that we would end up begging each other to quit! How wonderful it was to laugh that way. Fond memories!

    And thanks for sharing your fart confession, since farts, quite often, were the cause of these laugh sessions, all those years ago. You know us men and farting;-)

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      1. Too funny!

        If my x, stepson, and many of my old friends, were here reading this, they would all be evacuating right now;-)

        But yes, I believe you meant laughter, I think;-)

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  4. Like so many others your story brought a smile to my face and the story of your vest unraveling had me laughing out loud. Happy New Year Carol. Thanks for the smiles and laughter.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, the cowboy brought a smile to my lips, as did your anecdotes. Did you really unravel?! And loud, smelly farts…what can I say? Is there any nation anywhere that doesn’t find farts and other toilet humour funny? Every kid ( and adult) I know crack up at the merest mention/thought/sound/smell.
    Laughing is the antidote to so much, especially if we can laugh at ourselves. I love the stand-up comics who are skilled in capturing slices of life and making us see them in a different way. Just watched one the other night with my family – a young, Glaswegian comedian (viewer discretion definitely required!)
    All the best for the New Year, Carol. May you laugh long and hard. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Carol, you are so right in the importance of laughter in life and especially at yourself. I was just saying the other day to my daughter that you should always be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. There are moments of course, that you need to but to see the humor in life is absolutely needed. I hope to live graciously in the next upcoming year. Happy New Year and many Blessings ahead to for you, dear Carol.

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  7. Carol, I hope this new year is filled with uncontrollable, belly-aching laughter for you. The release it brings is so very important for our sanity–to be reminded that we can return to the joyful state of a child, at least for a short while. My best wishes for 2016–Melissa

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    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Thom. I do remember your Laurel and Hardy post 🙂 .

      I thought of sharing a story about an amusing experience. I was standing in a line of hundreds of students to register for classes at a university – the “A through H line.” When it was finally the turn of the person in front of me, the registrar behind the window asked his name. “Hardy, Laurel N.” was his reply. I guess his parents had a sense of humour, but I remember wondering what his childhood had been like…

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  8. Still need to check out the video but, I cracked up thinking about your crocheted vest unraveling! Hah. I’m imagining if someone split their pants and had to keep their front to the audience. I would give many presentations after lunch, people with a full tummy nodding off, less than 10% was a win in my book. Thanks for the laugh Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your great comments, Ray. Yes, talking to people after lunch is usually hard, but this cowboy kept people awake. I’m glad to know this made you laugh. (And I still have the vest as a reminder) 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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